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Game Collections

teen gamerWhile some people spend their free time reading books, watching movies, or listening to music, others have embraced electronic games.

Gaming is a very popular activity of young adults and impact many aspects of their lives. According to Amanda Lenhart (2008) and others,

"The first national survey of its kind finds that virtually all American teens play computer, console, or cell phone games and that the gaming experience is rich and varied, with a significant amount of social interaction and potential for civic engagement... Game playing is universal, with almost all teens playing games and at least half playing games on a given day. Game playing experiences are diverse, with the most popular games falling into the racing, puzzle, sports, action and adventure categories."

According to Anderson and Rainie (2012),

"young people's interests in gaming will drive the trend to gamifying other aspects of life... young people now and in the future enjoy digital, social gaming, so applying game mechanics across all elements of their lives fits their communication orientation."

In the book Don't Bother Me, Mom -- I'm Learning: How Computer and Video Games Are Preparing Kids for Twenty-First Century Success -- and How You Can Help!, Marc Presky stresses that games can be powerful learning tools.

Read Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked by Henry Jenkins at PBS. To learn more about gaming, browse The Video Game Revolution website.

Video and Computer Games

playstationThere are two types of games: video games and computer games. 

Video games use a console and controllers that are attached to a television or are self-contained hand-held devices, while computer games are played on a computer or mobile device. However some people just call everything a video game.

The image on the left shows a PlayStation.

Many games require remote controls or other devices such as game pad, gun, or joystick. Many users also purchase headphones, printers, and large monitors.

Games can also be stored on cartridges or discs. Like DVDs and CDs, they can get dusty and will need to be cleaned. Increasingly, games are available as downloads off the Internet rather than being using a physical storage device.

threeCurrently there are over sixty-five video game systems in use. Well-known systems include Nintendo, PlayStation, Wii, and XBox. New systems are introduced each year. In many cases, new systems require new game cartridge/discs. In some cases, an emulator can be used to replicate the capabilities of another machine.

The image on the right shows a Nintendo3DS.

Game Genre

When choosing games, it’s sometimes helpful to learn more about the genre.

Computer and video game genres include action, adult, adventure, board games, educational, fighting, game shows, puzzle, racing, role-playing, shooter, simulation, sports, strategy, and traditional.

Action. In these games, players run, jump, climb, and leap around fantasy worlds from one level to the next. Players move throughplatforms or mazes. Cute characters such as Super Mario are often the heroes (shown below). The characters are sometimes modeled after television and movie characters. Pokemon games are particular popular with children.


Adventure. You're stranded in a strange land, you're on a secret mission, or you're solving a crime. These are examples of adventure situations where the characters must solve a problem or complete a journey. Players must sometimes collect things such as keys or treasure.

lego marvelGames such as The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy require players to take on the role of a person to complete an adventure or fight battles. They are available in many formats including Game Boy. Others require strategy such as deploying troops.

LEGO games are particularly popular with the 6-12 age group including LEGO Harry Potter, LEGO Battles Ninjago, and LEGO Indiana Jones.

Roleplaying. Many games combine action, adventure, and roleplaying. For instance, Fire Emblem is a RPG (role playing game) that combines all three. Others like Harvest Moon focus more on developing relationships and building community.

Educational. In addition to games, you'll find materials such as thinking puzzles, problem solving situations, and learning games. Many materials are available for young children such as Backyardigans and Dora's Cooking Club. Test preparation tools will help students study for the SAT/ACT.


Fighting and Shooting. In fighting games, one player fights one or more opponents using fists as well as weapons. Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto are fighting games. Shooting games require players to shoot enemies and survive. The targets may be space ships, jets, ducks, or people.

RacingAircraft, bicycles, boats, cars, go-karts, monster trucks, motorcycles, and snowmobiles are just a few of the vehicles use in racing games. Players control the vehicle and race to win. For instance, Forza Horizon is an auto-racing game exploring the Colorado countryside.

SimulationsHave you ever wanted to fly a plane, build a city, or win the presidency? Simulations put the player in a real-life or fantasy situation and ask them to succeed at a mission. Some packages include familiar characters such as the Disney characters. The Sim game are very popular including SimAnimals, MySims Agents, MySims Kingdom, and the classic SimCity for most of the game systems.

Sports. In sports games, players compete in a variety of games such as baseball, basketball, football, skating, golf, pool, and wrestling. Madden NFL and Tiger Woods PGA Tour for the PlayStation is an example of American football. Wii Sports is a popular option for the Wii.


Traditional. Some video games use traditional games as models. Action, adventure, and word puzzles ask players to solve problems to move to the next level. Other games are based on board games, card games, trivia, or television shows. You'll also find games such as pinball and gambling. Family Game Night for Wii is an example. Most systems have Scrabble and other popular board games.

Keep in mind that games aren't just for boys and not all children fit traditional stereotypes. Barbie Fashion Studio is a game that doesn't fit traditional categories.

Read Farmer, Lesley S.J. (2011). Are girls game? how school libraries can provide gender equity in e-gaming. Knowledge Quest, 40(3), 30-35. Available through IUPUI.

Go to All Game Guide. It contains information about games, characters, companies, people and platforms. Create a list of ten general questions (and answers) that every gamer would know.

Online and Alternate Reality Games

Increasingly, people of all ages are involved in online gaming. Multiplayer Online Games involve playing through the Internet and MMORPGs (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games) also involve online play but may involve a huge number of players. World of Warcraft is an example of a MMORPG.

They may also be combining live action activities with hand-held devices and social networking tools. These Alternate Reality Games are being used by some librarians to draw in new library users.

It's important to remember the privacy and Internet safety issues surrounding games that involve interacting with others online.

Library Game Collections

girlA growing number of public libraries are developing game collections.

When purchasing games consider the hardware that your patrons are most likely to have available.

Some games require more memory to run. Are your patrons likely to have these systems? Specialty hardware such as a fishing rod or steering wheel may be needed.

Game Selection

Review sources used to evaluate other types of print and electronic resources can be applied to games such as School Library Journal, Knowledge Quest, and Young Adult Library Services.

In addition to adult reviews, also consider the thoughts of children and young adult users. For instance, School Library Journal published a high school review of NCAA Football 14.

Common Sense Media is an excellent source for reviews related to games for children and young adults.

Go to their Top Picks for Games. Notice how the games are evaluated.

Explore other websites that focus on reviews for children and young adults:

There are lots of great blogs like GamerDad where you can read reviews and learn about the latest trends.

Game Ratings

Censorship is contagious, and experience with this culture of regulation teaches that regulatory enthusiasts herald each new medium of communications as another opportunity to spread the disease - Robert Corn-Revere (Chief Counsel to FCC Interim Chairman James Quello)

boyCensorship is a particular problem in the area of gaming. Some librarians simply don't like the violence and sexual situations often found in games. As a result, they choose not to purchase games. However like all other areas of the library collection, users should have equal access to resources including games.

Some libraries used popular rating systems to determine which electronic games can be checked out to children and young adults. A few libraries even use them to make purchase decision. Centers sometimes use rating systems to label materials. Some libraries require permission slips before students can check out games. Is this censorship or good practice? You decide.

The issue of mature game content is serious. According to Amanda Lenhart (2008) and others,

"game playing sometimes involves exposure to mature content, with almost a third of teens playing games that are listed as appropriate only for people older than they are."

Because video games contain violence and adult situations, there are issues related to age appropriateness when dealing with children and young adults. Some organizations have become involved with rating and evaluating games.


The ESRB: Entertainment Software Rating Board includes rating such as Early Childhood, Everyone, Teen, Mature, Adults Only, and Rating Pending. This independent, non-profit organization developed a rating system for computer and video games to help select materials.

try itTry It!
Go to the Entertainment Software Rating Board website. Read about the ESRB Ratings and where to find information about a particular game or app.
Examine the list of Recently-Released Games. Look for issues that might be of concern to young audiences.
Consider the pros and cons of using rating systems as part of the selection process. Also, consider the pros and cons of using the rating systems in determining who can checkout or view game materials.

Some adventures focus on a particular time period such as the Assassin's Creed series of action-adventure games. They concentrate on the Third Crusade, Renaissance, or Colonial Period (shown below). Although they are pretty accurate historically, they are very violent. On the other hand, they are very popular with teens.


Let's examine the ESRB rating for the latest game in the Assassin's Creed series, Assassin's Creed Black Flag.


The MATURE rating indicates that this game's "content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language."

It's likely that this title may be in the adult collection. Because of the rating, it's likely that a parent would need to check out the title if a teen under 17 was interested... which they will be.

Now, let's look at another example, Angry Birds: Star Wars. Notice that groups of platforms are sometimes rated separately. This one has an EVERYONE rating indicating "content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language."


Seek out the many T for TEEN game titles that bridge the EVERYONE and MATURE categories. For instance, The Cave is a great puzzle game full of action and adventure that's rated TEEN.


Schools are less likely to deal with issues related to the rating system because purchases should be curriculum related. However, it's still a good idea to check ratings. Portal 2 is a great example of a puzzle solving game that's fun and also addresses important physics-based skills. There's even an accompanying website to go with the game. Notice that it's rated for EVERYONE.



Game Links and Resources

Some of the more popular, general gaming sites are listed below. However note that many of the games aren't appropriate for children.

try itTry It!
Get into the debate related to video game collections in libraries. Do you think school and public libraries should have video game collections? Why or why not? Build a case for both options.

Games in the Library

Gaming is increasingly in demand in every community. Even though it may seem daunting, gaming events and services are within the reach of any public library.” -- Eli Neiburger in Gamers... in the Library?!

Many librarians celebrate National Gaming Day in their library. Other librarians do not see a place for video games in library collections; some school librarians, some public librarians. Before you make up your mind, explore the following online resources.

Explore resources at ALA:

Read Saxton, Beth (January 1, 2007). All thumbs isn't a bad thing: video game programs@your library. Young Adult Library Services. Available through IUPUI.
Read Bringing Gaming (and Gamers) to Your Library: 100 Tips and Resources.

Connect Books and Games

Seek out ways to bring readers and gamers together. For instance, The Last of Us is an interactive, postapocalyptic game focusing on survival. Connect this game with lovers of dystopian fiction like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Keep in mind that many games including The Last of Us is rated M for Mature. Read a review by a high school teen.


Gee, James Paul (2012). Digital games and libraries. Knowledge Quest, 41(1), 60-64. Available through IUPUI.

Build Your Own Games!

Besides building an electronic game collection, you can also create your own games.

Google Games: CreatureAll games have four elements. When you create a game, be sure to GRAF it.

  1. Goal. You need a way to win or achieve the goal.
    As educators we need to match goals with purposes and reasons for learning.
  2. Rules. You need to know what you may and may not do. 
    As educators, we need to provide guidelines for learning.
  3. Action and Attitude. You must do something along the way. Make it fun and interesting. 
    As educators we need to make leanring meaningful and challenging.
  4. Feedback. You need to know how you are doing. 
    As educators, we need to provide ongoing opportunities to self, peer, and teacher assessment.

Go to the Google Game: Creatures wikispace to try a Google Game. Does it contain the following four elements?

Try one of the following games. Think about what type of game you could design that would connect Google tools with a content area search.

Game Tools

Use the Dynamic Paper from Illuminations to create nets, graph paper, number lines, number grids, tessellations, shapes, spinners and more.

Virtual Game Boards

Seek tools that don't have distracting ads. Think about how some of the following tools might be used to design activities:

Game Makers. Use a game show atmosphere. Use laptops for students to search for answers.

Whiteboard Tools. Keep score in front of the classroom on a whiteboard.

QR Tools. Incorporate QR codes into your gameplay.

General Sources. There are lots of generators and tools that could be integrated into the gaming atmosphere.

Card Games

Post Card Games. Use Postcards as a way for students to share what they've learned. Go to Endangered Animals Postcards or Australia Animals Postcards. Pick an animal. Locate information. Summarize, cite source, and send card

Case Cards. Create paper-based cards (print from PowerPoint) that jumpstart a search. Roll the Dice to determine your case file number. Provide basic information. Students must solve the problem. Use a bulletin board in the classroom to classify cards or share answers.

Use Trading Card Generators. Create your own cards.

Learn more at Google Games.

life vestTry It!
Design a simple Google Game for a particular instructional situation. It should have GRAF: Goals, Rules, Attitudes/Actions, and Feedback.


Anderson, Janna & Raine, Lee (May 18, 2012). The Future of Gamification. PewInternet.

Lenhart, Amanda; Kahne, Joseph; Middaugh, Ellen; Macgill, Alexandra; Evans, Chris Evans and Vitak, Jessica (September 16, 2008). Teens, Video Games and Civics. Pew Internet.

Neiburger, Eli (2007). Gamers... in the Library? The Way, What, and How of Videogame Tournaments for All Ages. Chicago, IL: ALA.

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